Organisers of yesterday’s Right2Water protest demonstration, which caused a total gridlock in Dublin yesterday, have stated that the campaign will be stepped up in the New Year.
Bus-loads of protesters came from all over the country, including Sligo and the North West, and people of all ages travelling the length and breadth of the land to join in and have their say.There were at least six arrests for public order offences, four on O'Connell Bridge, which was blocked as thousands of workers tried to make their way home last night.
One UCD student from Ballymote was distressed last night as it took her over five hours to travel from the university to her apartment in Walkinstown. The loss of study time was upsetting for her as she sits more exams today.
However, the protest was overwhelmingly peaceful as a large crowd turned out on a weekday afternoon.Turnout
There appears to be some confusion over the turnout for the second national anti-water charges protest to be held in the Capital. Gardaí have estimated the figure at 50,000 with the organisers claiming 80 to 100,000 attending.
The five-hour rally at Merrion Square passed off peacefully, apart from some minor incidents. Splinter groups held separate protests at the junction of Kildare Street and Nassau Street, and also on O’Connell Bridge and Butt Bridge, where protesters sat down to block traffic chanting "No way, we won't pay" .Up to 500 people travelled from Sligo in early trains to Dublin packed, full private hire buses and cars.
Speaking to Sligo Today
, Cllr Declan Bree praised the hundreds of people from Sligo who travelled to Dublin to participate in the protest and said “It’s now very clear that the battle against water charges has become one of the largest and most significant social movements in the history of the state.
“Between 70,000 and 100,000 people participated in today’s demonstration outside the Dail and hundreds of thousands of people have participated in protest marches and protests throughout the country over the past number of months. The government is now in retreat and panicking as a result of the growing resistance to the water tax. “This protest is what democracy is all about and it sent a clear message to the government that water charges must be abolished.
“As a result of the strength of public opposition to the water charges and the threat of privatisation the government was forced to make a series of concessions including the postponing of the introduction of metered charging and putting back the start of a flat charge by several months. Other changes included an €100 registration discount and increased tax allowances. “The Right2Water campaign has totally rejected these concessions. We are not interested in concessions, we didn’t seek concessions - our demand is for the total abolition of domestic water charges – nothing more and nothing less.
“We are now on the home stretch. This demonstration sent a resounding message to the government that their concessions are meaningless and that domestic water charges must be abolished.” he said.
Cllr Declan Bree and Cllr Sean MacManus among the hundreds of Sligo people
who participated in the Right2Water protest. Photo: Denise O'Toole
Independent TD Clare Daly, in a reference to the size of the crowd, told the audience at the rally: “This is indeed what democracy looks like. We are living in a moment that changed Ireland. Irish Water is already dead. We are here to bury it.”
The rally was addressed by more than a dozen representatives from Sinn Féin, smaller left-wing parties and Independent TDs. The crowd at the rally was told that the campaign would continue until the water charges were abolished. Some lighter moments on the march. Photo:Pat Rooney
Earlier, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said he did not envisage any change to the water charges.
He also said he had not seen a realistic alternative from the Opposition on how it will pay the billions needed to improve water infrastructure.
Mr Kelly also said the water issue could have been handled better by the minister who preceded him.
Richard Boyd Barrett, the People Before Profit Alliance TD, told the crowd it was important to sustain the momentum after the protest. He urged people to attend the next national protest announced for January 31st.
Flying the flag and drumming for Sligo. Photo: Pat Rooney
See more photos by Pat Rooney HERE